How to Spring Clean Your Pesticide Shelf

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To save or not to save, that is the question. Should we put aside the amazing collection of partly filled boxes, bottles, and sacks of pesticides accumulated for another garden season, or should we discard them?

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The answer depends upon how much storage space is available, how much money is invested, and the quantity and estimated future need for the leftover chemicals. It also depends on whether the chemical loses its power as it ages.

Discarding Obsolete Products

I, long ago, discarded all products that have become obsolete, such as lead arsenate, Paris green, and lime sulfur. More effective chemicals have taken place, and what remains on the shelf will never be used.

I throw away any that are going into their third summer. If I haven’t used them by this time, I never will. 

Not worth keeping are minute quantities and packages that have been broken or contaminated. All unknown chemicals must go—those that have lost their labels.

Checking The Labeling

Having weeded the assortment, I carefully studied the remaining labels on the shelf. Generally speaking, insecticides fall into three groups:

  • Organic phosphates, which do not keep well.
  • Botanicals have fairly good keeping qualities.
  • Chlorinated hydrocarbons are fairly stable.

Organic phosphates include malathion, TEPP (hexagon), and demeton (system). I make it a rule never to hold over for a second growing season any formulations with these names on the label. 

In many cases, their keeping qualities have been increased by adding chlorinated terr-phenyls, and they may be perfectly all right for another year.

But I don’t know, so replacing them is better than using material of doubtful toxicity. 

Botanical insecticides include:

  • Rotenone
  • Pyrethrum
  • Nicotine sulfate

These keep fairly well for several years unless stored in open containers exposed to sunlight.

Most Stable Insecticides

Chlorinated hydrocarbons, such as DDT, methoxychlor, chlordane, lindane, and dieldrin, are the most stable of the insecticides and may, except for lindane, be stored until they are used up.

There is little difference in the keeping qualities of materials in liquid or powder form, provided they are stored in air-tight containers in a cool, dark place. It is best to keep chemicals in the purchased containers because labels contain vital instructions on application and precautions for use.

Repack And Kept Away

If you repack some of your pesticides, use glass jars, for it is impossible to know which ones must not be stored in metal containers. 

Powders should be kept dry. Liquids should not be allowed to freeze. And all chemicals should be kept away from heat and sunlight.

Also, all chemicals must be kept away from children and pets—Ditto for discards. I supervise disposal, not leaving them even in a covered trash can or any place where children or pets might get at them.

By following this procedure, I made an appreciable dent in my garden chemical stockpile, and House cleaning was completed. 

I turn to read about the latest discoveries and improvements in the field of insect, disease, and weed control and compile a shopping list of what I anticipate needing in the months ahead.

44659 by John James